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Surfrider Pacific Rim takes on plastic water bottles

Grassroots environmental nonprofit hopes to nix water bottles in Tofino and Ucluelet by spring 2022
Surfrider Pacific Rim chair Amorita Adair, left, and chapter manager Lilly Woodbury are encouraging folks to remember their water bottles and to drink the beautiful tap water Tofino enjoys from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations territory of Meares Island, which is pictured in the background. (Nora O’Malley photo)

The tide is turning at Surfrider Pacific Rim.

Former chair Michelle Hall has moved on to captain Surfrider Canada, handing over the helm of the local grassroots environmental network to Amorita Adair.

Adair, a mother of two small kids Raphaele and Orion, owns Tofino’s organic food store Gaia Grocery with her husband Scott. She is also a yoga instructor and surf veteran with over a decade of wave riding experience.

“I’m so thrilled to be able to give back to the community. You’ve embraced us. I have the capacity. The more I’m in service, the more energy I have and the less I think about myself. I think that’s a nice way to walk through the world,” says Adair.

Her goal as the leader of Surfrider Pacific Rim is to make lasting change through policy, starting with banning all single-use plastic water bottles in Tofino and Ucluelet by spring 2022. Since 2016, beach clean volunteers have picked up about 50,000 empty plastic bottles on nearby shorelines.

“The research and the data inform the policy. You can’t really argue with facts. If you present these facts to policy makers, hopefully they will see it the same way you will see it,” she told the Westerly News.

Since day one, notes Adair, her Ocean Friendly grocer has never sold one single-use plastic water bottle.

“We’ve sold glass in a 750-ml, but I’ve actually just switched over to aluminum. Aluminum is infinitely recyclable, whereas glass is not. It’s also lighter,” she says, adding that her staff will happily refill personal water bottles when asked.

Lilly Woodbury, Surfrider Pacific Rim’s chapter manager, chimes in.

“It’s really imperative to work on this as a community, especially since we have the privilege to access safe drinking water. It’s not going to be for bulk water, people can still have water in bulk for emergency preparedness, it’s just the single use bottles, which are actually more expensive anyways,” says Woodbury.

To raise awareness and educate locals and visitors about plastic water bottle pollution, Surfrider launched the ‘Take Back the Tap’ campaign in October 2020 in partnership with Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks. In a few short months, 70 businesses in the Pacific Rim corridor committed to the program, leaving a crew of Surfrider volunteers to work with the 30 or so other businesses to make the change.

Surfrider is also increasing access to fresh water in Tofino and Ucluelet. A new water dispenser was being installed for Ucluelet with a grant from the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District and adventure tour company Ocean Outfitters is sponsoring a water dispenser for the Tofino Village Green.

“We have to see this from an environmental justice perspective. We have clean water here. Why are we taking plastic water bottles that are extracting water from the most drought ridden places in the world like California? And taking it away from marginalized communities, from farmers and First Nations?” says Woodbury.

Both Surfrider Pacific Rim and Gaia Grocery are certified as Tribal Parks Allies, a movement that aligns with the vision of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations to support the ecological protection and restoration of Tribal Parks.

“I work to educate my team on what it means to be working within (the Tribal Parks) and they in turn can educate customers about the territory. Language is a big one, using proper terminology, trying to understand and acknowledge, and there is a donation to Tribal Parks Allies as well,” Adair says.

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